They may no longer be called the Special Partisan Unit (SPARU) of the New People’s Army (NPA) but the group continues to carry out assassinations, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, said on Monday.
Albayalde said these hitmen are responsible for the deaths of 136 people, mostly soldiers, policemen, local officials and rebel returnees in the past three years.
“Over the past three years, there had been 136 hits on soldiers, policemen, rebel returnees, local officials, and tribal leaders by the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front) attributed to its Special Partisan Unit/Special Operations Group (SPU/SOG), based in the “red areas,” Albayalde told reporters in a press briefing on Monday.
“These hit squads are now popularly referred to as the Sparrows. But they are not based in urban areas like the former Sparrow Unit, but only get out from the red area (normally rural area) to do special partisan operations like liquidation, murder or assassination, as directed by the Regional Party Committee,” he added.
The latest assassinations carried out by the NPA hit squad, according to Albayalde, was the killing of two Army soldiers at the Las Navas public market in Northern Samar last Nov. 27, the assassination of Philippine Navy Sr. Chief Petty Officer Jesus Saavedra in Pio Duran, Albay and the botched assassination of ex-Mayor Aran Boller of Matuginao, Samar in Catbalogan City.
Albayalde clarified that he was referring to the notorious hit squad, the defunct Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB) of the Manila-Rizal Regional Party Committee of Filemon Lagman, belonging to the rejectionist wing of the CPP-NPA-NDF led by Arturo Tabara and Romulo Kintanar.
He said that it was disbanded by the pro-Sison reaffirmist wing of the communist movement in early 1990’s during its 2nd Rectification period.
“But since then, the pro-Sison reaffirmist wing also adopted its Sparrow-like operations against their perceived enemies reportedly including the assassinations of Popoy Lagman, Arturo Tabara and Romulo Kintanar in early 2000,” Albayalde said.
“There is strong possibility that it will stage more hits depending on how the communist movement would want to utilize the Special Partisan Unit/Special Operations Group specialized capability for small unit missions against vulnerable targets,” he added.
The issue about the NPA squad was revived after President Rodrigo Duterte was quoted saying that he wants to create a government version of hit squad targeting communist rebels.
“Probably these incidents prompted the President to look into this deeper and probably ito yung sinasabi nya that we would create a special unit to address specifically this problem,” Albayalde said.
Albayalde said he has yet to receive instructions from the President regarding the matter.
“Wala pang (there is still no) specific guidance dyan (on that),” he added.
Earlier, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they will study and look very closely on President Duterte’s proposal to form a unit that will go after the communist rebels’ hit squad. (PNA/Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)